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Behind The Video Album: James Papper & Will Hooper on Dua Lipa x The Blessed Madonna 'Club Future Nostalgia'

Behind The Video Album: James Papper & Will Hooper on Dua Lipa x The Blessed Madonna 'Club Future Nostalgia'

Promonews - 20th Oct 2020

In this extraordinary year, could this be the biggest music-visual lockdown project of all? Back in the late spring, just as lockdown was easing, directors James Papper and Will Hooper were awarded responsibility for a very ambitious project: to create a visual  accompaniment to the whole 50 minutes-plus length of an album of remixes of Dua Lipa's hit album Future Nostalgia.

Collaborating with numerous visual creatives, who all worked under lockdown conditions from their home cities - including the likes of Berlin studio Sucuk & Bratwurst, Ignasi Monreal from Madrid, LA-based collective Actual Objects, Seo Young Kwon in Seoul, Brooklyn-based Miza Roux, Mason London in London, and more - the plan was to mirror the structure of the mixtape, where Dua Lipa and DJ/producer The Blessed Madonna have a gathered an array of artist-collaborators, from Mark Ronson, Madonna and Missy Elliot to Joe Goddard, Moodyman and Jayda G.

Will Hooper, the Blink-based director of music videos in the past couple of years for the likes of Declan McKenna, Bree Runway and Slaves - and nominated for Best New Director at this year's UKMVAs - was responsible for the live action side of the project: the video for the Blessed Madonna remix of Levitating, also released separately, and transitions between all the videos on the visual album. 

Meanwhile, James Papper led on all things animation - which involved him working with different design/animation creatives from all over the world, and supervising the making of fourteen individual films for the album featuring a wide range of animation styles, from fully-realised 3D worlds to 2D animation to illustration-led visualisers. 

Based at Blinkink in London, Papper usually directs commercials - his work includes ads for Camden Town Brewery and Voxi. It was a step out of his comfort zone, but it was a challenge he relished, as it gave him the opportunity to work with people - other illustrators, designers and animators, that he has long admired. And as a result, with the addition of Hooper's VFX-fired live action video for Levitating - featuring Missy Elliot as well as Dua Lipa - the Club Future Nostalgia 'visual album' is a true mixed-media extravaganza.  

I have lists of people I want to work with [so] this project was a dream.

"Following the work of artists is what I do with my own time," Papper tells us. "I have big lists of people I want to work with that I hold on to, [so] this project was a dream. Budget and Dua’s name allowed me to go to the top of that list." Firstly, he showed a selection of his favourite creatives and examples of their work to Dua Lipa, to see what would work for her. "I got to know what she liked visually, and was able to choose the best artists to fit her and her music," he says.

Furthermore, the period of lockdown was also a real influence upon the whole project and how it was briefed out to the creatives, and Papper reveals that this was the core of his proposal when pitching to direct the whole project.

"At the beginning I was inspired by my own, and everyone else’s solitude during lockdown," he explains. "I wanted to explore our own daydreams whilst being locked inside, and that’s the idea for the video - escapism. With Dua in her room listening to records and being transported to a meditative, repetitive dreamworld." That idea then informed his briefs to the artists that he commissioned - and crucially, he asked the artists to use their own experience during lockdown as a jumping-off point for their imagination.

"I wanted them to take me to their dreamworld," says Papper. "It’s not just about Dua’s experiences of solitude, but all of ours. Collectively, as a species, we were pretty much all experiencing similar levels of solitude, and something that shook up society and civilization as we knew it. In that sense, although we were in solitude, we were also connected.

It felt like we were allowed to do whatever we wanted as long as we stayed true to our vision.

"Those were the themes I wanted to explore: connectivity, dreams, escapism. And that was what I spoke with every artist about. Their interpretation of this is what made this project interesting. Loads of amazing creative minds coming together under one roof."

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Each artist had the same simple one-line brief: Dua in her bedroom daydreaming. After that, Papper says "we built ideas together", but his the elvel of communication and day to day involvement in their work varied greatly. "Everyone was different, and it was an organic," he says process. "With some, contact was minimal; with others we spoke pretty much every day. It was cool."

But the fact that there were creatives all over the world working on the project meant that it felt like a relentlessly non-stop process. "Because everyone was in a different timezone it meant that it was always being worked on," he says. "Like 24 hours a day someone, somewhere was working on it. Which was kinda mental, but also made for great productivity as it spread it out nicely."

It clearly required a can-do attitude, and a calm head to marshall this project, and Papper admits that "the sheer magnitude of it" was the most intense and challenging aspect. His team at Blinkink - particularly Gareth Owen, who produced each film, and EP Josef Byrne - were there to help with the strain. But also, Papper says that, crucially, the artist and her team were hugely supportive throughout the process.

"Dua and her team were very cool about feedback, and super-trusting," he says. "It felt like we were allowed to do whatever we wanted as long as we stayed true to our vision. Being a commercial director I’m not used to that level of freedom. So it was nice knowing we had the means to make whatever we wanted, that loads of people were definitely going to see it, and that we’d be supported in our decisions."

I wanted to explore our daydreams whilst being locked inside - it's about escapism.

While this activity happening all over the world, Will Hooper was in London creating a live action video for Levitating, at the moment that shoots were starting again under the strictest conditions due to the pandemic crisis. This involved shooting only couples who had spent lockdown together - including Dua and her boyfriend Anwar Hadid - in a world where young lovers harness the power of a cosmic event. Then Missy Elliot was filmed in the US, directed by Hooper remotely from London.

"I was brought onto the project a short while after James and Dua’s team had started laying the groundwork for the album film," says Hooper. "James and I were initially gravitated towards the collaborative nature of what Dua had achieved with bringing all these artists from across the world together and we wanted to lean into that with the visual.

"Working with James was mega. He’s a very creatively smart person and the first couple of weeks we spent smacking our heads together trying to work this thing out are sorely missed. We spent a lot of time on Zoom, James likes to look out of his window while he’s articulating his ideas and it’s very cute."

We asked Papper to give us his take on each of the fourteen films he directed on the project.


Future Nostalgia
Director: James Papper
Design & Illustration: Rhymezlikedimez (Ghent)
JP: "Robin [Velghe, aka Rhymezlikedimez] is cool and just top of the game at what he does. It was nice working closely with him to make something that just looked very good."

Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Sucuk & Bratwurst (Berlin)
"For the most part I let these guys do their thing. I’ve been a big fan of their work for a long time and I didn’t want to constrict their way of thinking. The interesting part of this job for me was adapting to every artists different workflow and nuanced ways in which they like to be directed."

Good In Bed
Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Jonathan Zawada (Sydney)
"Jonathan is not only a mega-talented cool guy but also just very lovely, and I enjoyed really nice phone calls with him where he would be very positive and excited about all potential ideas. His enthusiasm is contagious." 

Pretty Please
Director: James Papper
Creative Direction: Actual Objects; directors: Claire Cochran, Rick Farin (Los Angeles)
"Actual Objects were amazing to work with. Their stuff is so sick and nostalgic to me, it reminds me of the movies that would play out in between levels you played on Playstation. Like when you completed Tekken and would get a character movie or something.

"Our process was chilled we just spoke a few times about ideas, then I wrote up a brief, put it in a deck and they just blasted it out. I love it, it’s one of my faves for sure."

Boys Will Be Boys
Director: James Papper
Artwork & Design: Robert Beatty (Lexington, KY) 
"Robert’s stuff is sick. As soon as I knew he was involved I just thought about an alien club in space. I miss going out, dancing, etc. I just wanted to see an extreme version of what I wanted in life."

Love Again
Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Mason London (London)
"Mason [aka Joe Prytherch] absolutely killed it and was a pleasure to work with. I tried to let him do his thing for the most part, because he is so good and so experienced already. He’s also a very nice guy."

Break My Heart
Director: James Papper
Designer: Miza Roux (Brookyn, NY); Animator: Caspar Wain
"Miza and I made friends throughout the project which was nice, as I had not much time outside of it to socialise. We just wanted to take what she had already been doing (cool/surreal bedroom scenes) and animate them.

"Her style is very sick and I’ve loved her work for a long time. Luckily I also had Caspar Wain to help with extra design and animation and he went above and beyond."

Director: James Papper
Artwork: Ignasi Monreal (Madrid); Design & Animation: Connor Campbell

"Ignasi and Connor were a dream team..."

Love Is Religion
Director: James Papper
3D Design & Animation: Saida Saetgar (Vancouver)
"Saida was very nice and took direction well. We went through a load of different ideas, thinking about themes of love, religion, etc, and came to something very cool. Saida is not only great at brainstorming but good at coming up with beautiful visuals which are very satisfying to watch."

Don’t Start Now
Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Studio Dosage (Bristol)
"Ben Dosage was amazing to work with on this. Ben and I have known each other for a while so it was good to work with a mate.

"Ben and I discussed ideas a lot and worked closely, but for the most part Ben did his thing and it was really cool to see. His visuals were amazing and I love the story he told."

Director: James Papper
Co-Director: Ignasi Monreal (Madrid); Design & Animation: Connor Campbell
"Ignasi and Connor were a dream team. I first got Ignasi involved and we spoke about ideas. Ignasi was pulling up a lot of anime references and we were trying to figure out who would be good to pull his work together.

"That’s when we found Connor, who was amazing. The pair worked so well together and came out with an amazing product at the end."

Kiss & Make Up
Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Julian Glander (Brooklyn, NY)
"Julian is cool and funny and I just wanted him to do his thing. I love reading the chat down the side of his visualiser, it’s such a funny addition. That’s kinda what I mean about being allowed to do what we want. We just chucked that in there and Dua loved it." 

I love reading the chat down the side of Julian's visualiser, it’s such a funny addition.

That Kind Of Woman
Director: James Papper
Design & Animation: Victoria Vincent aka 'Vewn' (Los Angeles, CA)
"I've been a fan of Vewn’s for a while. Her films are super funny and she’s a great storyteller. She was a pleasure to work with and I couldn’t have asked for someone better to go on this track!"

Break My Heart (Moodymann remix)
Director: James Papper
Design: Seoyoung Kwon (Seoul)
"Seo’s artwork is amazing, I love what she does. She is also incredibly easy to work with. I had been watching a lot of 80s anime around the time I found her, and I just wanted to make something very satisfying and glowy. Luckily she was keen to work with me and so we made this together.

"I mentioned '80s anime to our compositor Richard Perrigo and he got super excited by that and was able to push things in compositing stages to achieve this effect. I really wanna work with Seo and Rich again to do this more. If you are a famous popstar and you’re reading this, hmu so I can work with these two again pls xxx."

Future Nostalgia Remix Album - Production Credits

Production Company:  Blinkink 
Production Company:  Blink 
Director:  James Papper 
Director:  Will Hooper 
Producer: Gareth Owen 
Producer: Corin Taylor 
BlinkInk Executive Producer: Josef Byrne 
Blink Executive Producer: Laura Northover 
Production Manager: Rosanna Morley
Production Manager: Seb Jowers 
Editor: Jamie Harris 
Commissioner: Katie Dolan

• James Papper is represented by Blinkink for commercial and music projects; Will Hooper is represented by Blink for music videos and commercials

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Promonews - 20th Oct 2020


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